Article Lead Image

Love letter lost among Syrian refugees: ‘Don’t forget me’

This puts the ongoing political debate in context.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Nov 20, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:07 pm CDT

While millions of Syrian refugees flee violence in their home country and head to Europe, a love letter believed to be between two refugees sat lost on Sicilian pavement until journalist Lynsey Addario spotted the missive.

Addario offered a rough translation: “Rana, I wanted to be with you. Don’t forget me. I love you very much. My wish is for you not to forget me. Be well my love. A loves R. I love you.”

The love letter adds a dose of humanity to a debate surrounding Syrian refugees that is often obscured by fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

The Syrian civil war has been the most deadly war since it broke out in 2011. Over 6 million people have been displaced within the country while millions have fled to neighboring nations, Europe, and North America.

The mass migration of mostly Muslim refugees have sparked fierce debates around the world on how to deal with the torrent of humanity streaming out of Syria’s hellish violence. The U.S. presidential race is increasingly focused on the issue, especially in the wake of the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Facts surrounding the refugees are regularly stretched and broken during the ongoing political debates. Increasingly, they’re portrayed as dangerous. Influential Americans, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch want religious tests for incoming Syrian refugees so that only “proven Christians” may enter. The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to limit refugees. Most American governors have said they don’t want to accept Syrian refugees.

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has vowed to accept 10,000 refugees in the next year. Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and leading 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, calls the idea of a religious test “hateful” and “a new low.” Many American mayors are calling for accepting even more refugees.

Addario’s photo of the refugee love letter is likely being widely shared because it stands clear above the political conflict, and because it points sharply to the common human experience of badly missing someone you love. 

Photo via Lynsey Addario/Instagram

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 20, 2015, 12:27 pm CST